In the wake of the Optus and Medibank data leaks, digital rights groups are calling on the Federal Government to rule out asking for proof of identity as part of any online age verification system, warning it could create a lure for people’s personal information and pornography viewing habits. .
Electronic Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant is developing an internet safety ‘roadmap’ outlining how to prevent minors from accessing adult content online by ensuring websites verify the age of users.
The European Commissioner’s report was originally due to be submitted to the government in December, but the deadline has now been extended to March next year. Stakeholders were informed of the reporting delay last week.
During the development of the roadmap, a variety of age verification options were proposed, including using third-party companies, individual sites that verify age through ID or credit card verification, and using ISPs or mobile carriers to verify age of users. .
Digital rights groups say almost all approaches to age verification will have some level of privacy and security risk.
“Following the Optus and Medibank hacks, millions of people are now acutely aware of the dangers of collecting and storing large amounts of our personal information,” said Samantha Floreani, program director at Digital Rights Watch.
“Age verification is a terrible combination of invasiveness and risk, and ineffectiveness for its intended purpose.
“Methods that are less intrusive to privacy are easily circumvented by tech-savvy kids, while those that are most likely to work to limit access to pornography pose huge and disproportionate risks to privacy and digital security.”
According to Floreani, there was potential for new baiting of people’s identities and porn viewing habits if these systems were maintained.
“The consequences of a breach of such a system would be devastating,” she said.
Electronic Frontiers Australia chairman Justin Warren said the EFA had long warned about the privacy and security risks associated with such a policy.
“A government that claims to be interested in evidence-based policy will listen to our advice and act on it. Failure to do so suggests that the motivation for increased surveillance and control is ideological,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the Albanian government “supports a ban on Australian children viewing online pornography”, but said questions about the roadmap were best directed to the e-Security Commissioner.
“The e-Security Commissioner has a complex job with a wide range of different stakeholder views and concerns, including privacy and security,” the spokesman said.
The Office of the Electronic Security Commissioner has been contacted for comment.
Other groups have called for an effective ban on online pornography. Anti-pornography group Collective Shout called for all pornography to be treated in the same classification as child sexual abuse or terrorist material, which should be removed or blocked in Australia.
Some companies have already started implementing age verification procedures. For example, since March, Google has estimated a person’s age using information collected in that account, such as search history. If the company ends up needing ID documents, Google says it deletes those documents after verification.